Naskarism

About Abhijit Naskar

Abhijit Naskar is one of the world's celebrated Neuroscientists, an International Bestselling Author of numerous books and a popular advocate of mental wellness and global harmony. He has revealed to the world with his contributions in Science how the basic awareness of the brain can completely redefine our perception of life and make our daily life much more cheerful. He takes us on a fascinating investigative journey of understanding the human mind and its vivid features. He was born in Calcutta, India. His rejuvenating scientific philosophy of the mind has been lavishing human life with the colors and sweetness of self-awareness, since its advent with his very first book "The Art of Neuroscience in Everything".

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How Religion Turns Evil

“The Church has carried out some of the most inhuman and above all un-Christian acts of human history, yet, it is still gloriously hailed by the majority of human population as to be synonymous with Jesus Christ.” – Neurons of Jesus: Mind of A Teacher, Spouse & Thinker

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You have heard countless times from me, that Religion is not a book, it is not an institution, and it is not even a person. True Religion is realization of the self. The Bible, the Quran, the Vedas and all the scriptures in the world are mere inventions of man (not woman) in the pursuit of understanding the self, and to some extent, in the pursuit of authoritarianism. Scriptures from the past have nothing to do with the neurologically created and experienced sensation of divinity and religion. However, all the books which humanity so gloriously worships as sacred, attempt to codify the divinity that is born with the human body and dies with it. This divinity or simply religion is born with the self created by the brain and ceases to exist when the self dies upon the death of the brain.

Religions began as realization of the self, but ended up being retaliation against each other. A handful of individuals in human history, empowered by their own neurons of divinity, experienced something quite extraordinary. They experienced something beyond this mortal world. They experienced being one with an Omnipotent Entity or Abstract Source of Energy. Despite the fact that, these experiences were all taking place exclusively within their own brain, they manifested as extraterrestrial encounters. Hence, the pre-conceived notion of Supreme Entity somewhere up in the sky, got more deep-rooted into the psyche of the ignorant masses.

When a person lacks understanding of the physical universe, and its phenomena, the primordial nature of the mind is to fill in the gaps with all kinds of gibberish concepts that originally come from our primitive days in the wild. And one of these concepts is that, there is a superhuman entity somewhere out there, who keeps an eye on us. That is the most natural knack of the primitive part of the mind. Because here, by believing so, we are psychologically entrusting an imaginary father figure (or mother figure in some religious beliefs, such as the Hindus) with our security and peace of mind. It does act as a placebo effect, but unlike the placebo pills used in our clinical trials, this placebo effect of a father figure or a personal God, has immense biological impact upon all aspects of human life, through the neurobiological substrates of the mind.

In simple terms, when a person believes that a God is truly concerned about the well-being of life on earth, and especially of human life, the belief adorns that person with various positive psychological elements such as emotional stability, in times of distress and a highly functional moral compass. Here this belief has nothing to do with reality whatsoever, rather it serves the evolutionary purpose of self-preservation.

However, if history has shown anything, it is that where there is a God, there is an institution trying to lock up that God in its lifeless structure of orthodoxy, in order to have authority over people and sell tickets to the Kingdom of that God. Thus emerged all the pompous lies about the extraterrestrial Kingdom of God or Heaven. To quote from my book “Neurons of Jesus”

“By infusing Jesus the man with the divine magic – by making him capable of earthly miracles as well as his own resurrection, the early church turned him into a god within the human world. Thus, the church reinforced the monopoly on the so-called route to heaven, i.e. salvation only through Jesus Christ. And during those days, whoever kept the keys to heaven would rule the world. “

This way, religion became politics. It became everything but realization of the self. It became a matter of doctrines, books, hierarchy and superiority of institutions. Hence, today the majority of the human population, perceives religion to be synonymous with certain books. And that is why there are so many conflicts in the name of religion and God in this so-called modern world.

A Christian would ask you to believe in the Bible, to believe that the Bible contains divine irrefutable commands from God. A Muslim would ask you to believe in the Quran, to believe that the Quran contains glorious messages from God or Allah. A Hindu would ask you to believe in the Bhagavad Gita, to believe that the Gita contains answers to all your problems given by God or Brahman. Thus, a religion becomes merely a matter of blind faith upon texts of the dead people. Hence, no religion can maintain a healthy relationship with another for a long time.

To quote from my book “In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience”

“It is not much use to talk about religion, until one has felt what the founding fathers felt. Why is there so much disturbance, so much fighting and quarreling in the name of God? There has been more bloodshed in the name of God than for any other cause. And it is all because people never attempt to reach the fountain-head. They are content only to comply with the customs of their forefathers, and want others to do the same.”

The point is, what the individuals, whom humanity venerates as prophets, experienced was something beyond the laws of their contemporary religious dogma, and as such, all of these individuals were hailed by the religious institutions of their time and society, as heretics. However, their ideas did indeed succeed to influence a bunch of people stuck in obscurity. So these people embraced these individuals as their own personal Gods, and in the mind of those ignorant people, every God must be worshipped with utter obedience. And their way of showing obedience was to concoct laws and rituals to ascertain the divine significance of their personal God in the spiritual patriarchy of religious prophets. Thus, obedience for one divine Teacher, turned into obedience for a God. And in time, it turned into obedience for a set of laws. And quite unexpectedly, one person’s battle against religious orthodoxy or fundamentalism, led to the birth of yet another orthodox circle. This happened at various corners of the world in various circumstances.

In Asia, Buddha, a Hindu, stood up against the orthodox Hindu society, and ended up constructing yet another religion called Buddhism. And on the other side of the world, Jesus, a Jew, stood up against the orthodox Jewish society, and ended up being the personal God of yet another religion called Christianity.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Religion, Prophets & Politics.”)

Further Reading 

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience

Abhijit Naskar, 2017, Neurons of Jesus: Mind of A Teacher, Spouse & Thinker

 

I am Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu & Atheist

People often ask me, what my religion is. My answer to them is, I am a Christian to the Christian, a Jew to the Jew, a Muslim to the Muslim, a Hindu to the Hindu and an Atheist to the Atheist. There is nothing wrong or unscientific or primitive about being a religious person. In fact, we neuroscientists have shown with countless experiments that in daily life, religious rituals such as engaging prayers, aid in sustaining mental as well as physical health. But the problem with religion, in the way it is perceived in today’s world, is that, it is more of a matter of theoretical indoctrination than actual realization of divinity within the self. And that’s where religion becomes dangerous.

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A religious individual may most gloriously carry out his or her own rituals, as a part of his or her cultural identity, but the moment, that person starts to build a wall of separation between the self and the rest of humanity, coaxed by the textual commands of a scripture, the healthy religiousness turns into dangerous fundamentalism, which is a threat to both the self and the society. That is why, I am a relative of both the religious and the atheist portions of the society, but the brightest nightmare to the fundamentalists. Fundamentalism has nothing to do with modern civilization. And indeed, it has nothing to do with religion. And if it does fester in any corner of the world, it is the responsibility of the conscientious people of that society to rise against such barbarianism and uproot it before it grabs onto the psyche of a broader audience.

Religious fundamentalism advocates homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, polygamy and many other primitive evils. Can you imagine, somebody telling you, your love for your dearly beloved is a sin! Can you imagine, somebody telling you, women are inferior to men, and are meant only serve the men! Can you imagine, somebody telling you, a man can have multiple wives, and yet be deemed civilized! Here that somebody is a fundamentalist – a theoretical pest from the stone-age, who somehow managed to survive even amidst all the rise of reasoning and intellect. Such a creature with no modern mental faculty whatsoever, knows nothing beyond the words of a book, written hundreds or thousands of years ago, when ignorance was the default mode of thinking in the society. It does not only believe every single word of a book to be literally true, but puts all its efforts to convince others to believe the same. This way, it would be an understatement to say, such is a worthless creature. In reality, such a creature can cause a catastrophic contagion in a society, especially if that society is already going through socio-political turmoil. In a society, where people most progressively practice rational thinking, no fundamentalist pest can infect their psyche. But if the people are already boiling with rage, then such minds are more vulnerable to fundamentalist contagion. Thus emerge Jihadis or Holy Warriors. Here let me quote from my book “The Islamophobic Civilization: Voyage of Acceptance”, to show you, what goes on inside the brain of a holy warrior.

“Inside a jihadi brain, the neuropsychological elements of aggression and rage run rampant, due to socio-political conditions. These overwhelming mental elements of young souls, when attached to the sacred texts of the Quran, by the authoritarian groups of fundamentalists, become weapons of mass destruction in the pursuit of the exclusive supremacy of one religion over the others.”

To get rid of religious terrorism, it is not enough to kill a bunch of Jihadis, even though it may be morally justified to do so, for saving humanity from their wrath. Jihad or Holy war would keep festering one way or another, until religious fundamentalism is eradicated from the human society. Until the whole humanity learns to scrutinize its most revered scriptures with the sharp tool of reasoning, Jihad will keep on striking over the world. If one does not have the basic conscientious capacity to refute the primitive textual verses of the scriptures that demand one to kill or torture another being for holding a different belief system than one’s own, then that entity is no being of the civilized human society. No Quran, no Bible, no Gita, no Cow, is greater than the human self. There shall be hope for harmony and peace in the world, only when fundamentalism is destroyed forever. Harmony is not a luxury, it is an existential necessity of the species. And to achieve it, if a hundred Bibles have to be sacrificed, then be it. But for no Bible, Quran or Gita, can harmony be compromised.

The point is, being a Christian does not mean hating or belittling the non-Christians. Being a Muslim does not mean hating or belittling the non-Muslims. Being an Atheist does not mean hating or belittling the religious people. In a civilized society, diversity in religious orientation should be the reason for celebration, not the cause for hatred and differentiation. Some people like baseball, some soccer and some others like no sports at all. Their psychological orientation with sports doesn’t make them any less or more human. The same is with religious orientation. The true Kingdom of God is within you, and it is defined by your behavior with other people, regardless of their religious affiliation. You are the God of your life, and your divinity lies in your actions. And once you realize this, it will dawn on you that, all religions are mere external echoes of humankind’s internal divinity. Remember, divinity is goodness, and goodness is godliness. There is nothing higher than this. There is no greater religion than this.

 

(Simultaneously published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience
Abhijit Naskar, 2017, The Islamophobic Civilization: Voyage of Acceptance

Islam: Religion of Peace or Violence

Islam – is it a religion of peace or of violence? This is a question that torments the entire human society. But just because it is correlated with over-exaggerated discussions and debates, does not mean that the question itself is a genuine one. Let me put it this way – Islam is a religion of course, but neither of peace nor of violence. It is a religion like any other religion, that provides a psychological bedrock of baseline cultural identity and individuality to its people. But it is the actions of these people that should be accounted for to define whether the religion “Islam” is a religion of peace or of violence, instead of judging it based on the scripture Quran. Books are no measure for judgement in the society of thinking humanity. It is the actions of the people that counts, nothing else.

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Here you must remember, the so-called Jihadis who are in reality, mentally unstable individuals run by Quranic fundamentalists, do not represent the whole Muslim population of the world. Muslims are just as peace-loving as the Christians, Hindus, Jews or Buddhists. Terrorism has nothing to do with religion, Islam or otherwise. Terrorism is born of fundamentalism not of religion.

Peace and Violence are both biological traits of humans as well as the entire animal kingdom. And since humans are the only species capable of creating literatures, it should not be surprising that these literatures would have the same blend of peace and violence, or simply, good and evil, that the human character possesses. And these literatures include all the scriptures in the world. As such, they are not immune to the innate evil of the human psyche. In fact, since these scriptures are the product of a time when ignorance and barbarianism ran rampant in the human society, it is more reason, for evil traits to appear on their pages alongside the goodness that they teach.

Like all human literatures the Islamic literature, the Quran and the Hadith, were also human creation. No Allah or God had anything to with them. They arose from the minds of the humans. The Quranic messages were born from the mind of supposedly the man named Mohammed in a state of transcendence. This state of mind is an extraordinary one, with such unique elements that often leave the smartest individuals baffled. And Mohammed was no smart man, like say, Albert Einstein or James Watson. He was an ordinary man of his time, who attained the state of transcendence during his daily prayers in a mountain cave. And in that state of transcendence his mind gave rise to all the revelations, both good and bad, that later collectively became known as the Holy Quran. Hence, it is the reader who must distinguish the good from the bad, if he or she is to remain a genuine part of the civilized society.

Let me bring up an excerpt from my book “The Islamophobic Civilization: Voyage of Acceptance” to shed further light on this matter.

“Think of the bloodshed there has been in consequence of some of the Quranic doctrines that literally command to kill the infidels if they do not become Muslims! Think of the textual creeds that teach, a man who does not believe all the teachings of Quran should be killed and it is a mercy to kill him! The one ultimate rule of the Quranic fundamentalists is “there is one God and Mohammed is his prophet”. Everything beyond that not only is bad, but must be destroyed forthwith. At moment’s notice, every man or woman, who does not exactly believe in that, must be killed. Everything that does not belong to this set of ideals must be killed.”

And because of such barbarian actions of the Quranic fundamentalists, many atheists, including my dear friends and colleagues Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris quite naively want to turn every single religious person on earth into an atheist, which by the way, is a great and progressive notion, but I am afraid, it biologically, or to be more specific neurologically, is an impractical idea. Religion itself is a neurological phenomenon which evolved in the human mind to act as an aid in daily life. Which means, Mother Nature selected it as a neuropsychological feature for the humans in the path of survival. Hence, no individual has the power to take such natural trait away from the human mind, unless Natural Selection gives consent. Therefore, it is more practical to make people transform their mindset about religion and religiousness and walk in the path of creed-less religious harmony, than to convert the entire religious population on earth into atheists.

All we need to do, is to turn human actions into a measure of judgement for religions, instead of some old books. Once we successfully do this, eventually we will be able to build a world where the human self shall be the Alpha and the Omega of the society, not a God self of some old books. In fact, the God self depicted in those books, was nothing but the transcendental manifestation of the human self. Which means, the God of humanity is, in actuality, human, or to be more accurate, man himself. Men in different times went into transcendence and quite unintentionally, due to neurological reasons (refer to “Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality”), mistook the messages rising from their own mind as revelations coming from an external divine realm. Thus, all revelations of all scriptures are the creations of the human mind, not of God.

Now tell me, do you still hail those texts as irrefutable? Do you still think that you are ought to follow every single word of those scriptures with a blind eye? Don’t you think that it is the existential responsibility of a civilized human being to measure those texts, as they have such a blinding impact upon the society, with your own rational mind?

Progress of the human society is predicated upon the proper functioning of a key element of the human mind, that is reasoning. Without this mental element we would no longer be a civilized species. And when reasoning runs pure in the heart of the humans, no book has the power to compel them to fight among each other in the name of religion or paradise. Remember, reasoning is the cure for superstitions and bigotry. Once reasoning reigns, love and acceptance become the religion, and hatred and dogmatism become a matter of ancient history.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience
Abhijit Naskar, 2017, The Islamophobic Civilization: Voyage of Acceptance

 

Film Making: A Great Tool to Shape A Society

Motion Picture – it can be a great tool to inspire and shape the thinking of the masses, yet the harsh reality of the so-called modern society is that, most of the films that are made today have not the slightest bit of nutritious food for the mind, rather it is all a cocktail of various cheap stimuli. They can, if they want, make movies of great taste, capable of getting inside the head, or rather the heart of the people, and make them feel sentiments of utter significance both in the paths of individual and social progress, yet they choose not to. And their excuse for not making such movies is that, they do not sell – their excuse is that, people won’t go to the theaters to watch an inspirational and thought-provoking movie – their excuse is that, people want entertainment, not philosophy!

Movie Recommendation by Abhijit Naskar

Movies recommended by Abhijit Naskar. Top Row (Left to Right): Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, People will Talk, Good Will Hunting, Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man Bottom Row: 3 Idiots (Hindi), Taare Zameen Par (Hindi), Oh My God (Hindi), Moner Manush (Bengali), Leader (Telugu)

However, regardless of such petty notion about film-making, there are some true filmmakers, who give their heart and soul to make movies that are most incredible in their ability to touch the heart as well as the brains of the masses. A Film has the potential to kindle such a spark of inspiration in an individual that it can alter the course of human progress. Today the thinker whom you know as Naskar, had his inspiration from not only the world of science and philosophy, but also from the world of motion-picture. Back in the years, when I was in the pursuit of recognizing my real self, movies did not only fuel that pursuit to some extent, but also, they taught me to speak languages other than my mother-tongue Bengali, such as English, Telugu and others.

The reality is, films that are made solely to sell, instead of touching the conscience of the masses, feed on the ignorance and confusions of the people, on the other hand, films that are created to both inspire and entertain at a deeper level, are more likely to have fewer audience. But remember this, my dear film-maker, the few viewers that your film receives because of being more inspiring and less entertaining, have the potential to shape their society in the line of the idea conveyed by you. Now you choose, my dear friend, what kind of society you wish to have – a society full of dumb manikins who love nothing more than pure, pedestrian entertainment, or a society where the very term entertainment is defined by the message conveyed by your film. A film with no message, is a film of no value in the society of civilized humans. You can tell the level of intellect and advancement of a nation, by the kind of movies its citizens watch.

A society does not stay dumb because of its dumb co-called political leaders, but because of those large number of creative individuals with great public outreach, such as film-makers, actors, music composers, singers, and others, who are more interested in increasing their fan-following than shaping the mind of their preexisting followers with their work towards a progressive future. There is a difference between healthy entertainment and cheap, pedestrian entertainment. And unfortunately, most of today’s film-makers are inclined towards the later instead of the former, especially in the developing countries. In fact, to these directors, the only entertainment that there is, is the pedestrian entertainment – and as for the healthy entertainment, it is apparently a myth that is less likely to receive a broader audience.

So, now let’s try to understand, what the heck is healthy entertainment! Healthy entertainment is a beautiful blend of stimuli that can connect with the viewer at a sentimental level, then sow the seeds of a certain idea or feed the mind with inspiration and courage. In short, healthy entertainment does not evoke raw emotions in the mind of a viewer only to make them wreak havoc, rather it guides those emotions in a healthy direction. This leads to not only an entertained viewer, but also an inspired soul. And that should be the purpose of film-making, and indeed the entire entertainment industry, rather than feeding the general population with garbage. Remember – Entertain, but also, give the viewer something to think about. Without an underlying message to think about, there is no difference between going to the movie-theater and going to the bar.

 

(Simultaneously Published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2017, Principia Humanitas
Abhijit Naskar, 2017, We Are All Black: A Treatise on Racism
Abhijit Naskar, 2017, The Bengal Tigress: A Treatise on Gender Equality

Real Nature of God

God – Allah – Jehovah – Brahman – all these mere man-made verbal expressions become bleak and dismal upon the attainment of the actual experience. Once the lotus of your inner divinity gets full-blown and you reach the mental state where all the religious giants of human history experienced the all-encompassing sense of godliness, the exuberance of the human mind turns infinite. Awakening into that state makes all the perceptual limitations of the mind disappear, just like a bucket of muddy water turns crystal-clear once poured into the ocean.

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To put it simply, the transcendental state sets the human mind free. In this extraordinary state of mind, the usual finite domain of consciousness transforms into a subjective, infinite, universal, all-pervading consciousness. This mental state is what we can quite literally call the Kingdom of God. Clinically I have termed this state of mind in my book What is Mind? as Absolute Unitary Qualia.

The experience itself is encoded in the neurological circuits of the human brain. However, this specific functional expression of the neurons does not occur in the usual state of mind. It requires specific internal and external stimuli to trigger the manifestation of the God state in the human mind.

Various neural activities collectively construct the vividly divine internal environment of the Kingdom of God. It involves various internal biological factors. However, the most important question of this century that rises from the study of the psychology of religion, is that whether the God state is a delusional state of the mind.

Despite the fact that a few radical atheist psychologists have put forward the suggestion that religious faith or simply any kind of faith upon God may turn out to be mere delusion, we neuroscientists who actually investigate the molecular underpinnings of all things religious and spiritual, have empirically proven otherwise.

The argument against faith is all based upon the rigorous analysis of the scriptures, and not upon the objective observation of the actual individual sensation of faith. Historical experiences of the Kingdom of God gave rise to all the scriptures in the world, but the scriptures themselves don’t account for the actual globally prevalent psychological element of faith or divinity in the human mind.

Faith is a natural evolutionary trait of the human mind, selected by Mother Nature as an internal coping-mechanism.

Now let’s first distinguish what is the difference between faith and the mental state of God. Faith is simply a natural sensation of the mind, quite like love, which is seen in most of the human population. On the other hand, the God state is the actual subjective experience of encountering God, quite literally. Hence, this subjective experience occurs only in the fraction of the human population, due to various stimuli.

Moreover, the manifestation of the God Dimension in the human mind requires specific internal and external environment. In short, there are a few kinds of stimuli that evoke such transcendental state where a person simply has an inexplicable encounter with God, unlike the everyday personal sense of faith. This encounter manifests at different intensities based on the kind of the stimulus, and more importantly, majority of the modern day God state experiences tend to be lethal, due to their pathological origin.

This means, pathology can indeed cause experiences of the Kingdom of God, but not all God state experiences are caused by pathology. They can also occur due to disturbance in the geomagnetic field of our planet, consumption of psychedelics, excruciatingly extreme level of stress during a near-death situation, or ultimately through a natural and healthy procedure of meditation.

Now let’s shed some light on the shady domain of the Kingdom of God or to speak clinically, the Absolute Unitary Qualia. So, the very first question that may rise in the mind of a rational human being, is – what is this God state? Is it some kind of extraterrestrial dimension?

To answer these questions, we need to resort to two different perspectives. From a subjective point of view, i.e. from the point of view of a person who’s actually experiencing the God state, it is indeed an extraterrestrial dimension which the ancient cultures termed as the Kingdom of God. Now from an objective point of view, i.e. from the point of view of a scientist who analyzes subject’s experience of the God state, it is an exceptional state of the human mind, attained in specific internal and external conditions.

Basically, it is an earthly experience, which manifests in an unearthly manner. It appears to be devoid of the mortal limitations of the human life. And especially due to its unearthly and quite heavenly characteristics, it is deemed in many early human civilizations as the Abode of the Lord Almighty.

Unlike the usual sensation of divinity in the general population, the God state is an actual experiential encounter with the pre-dominant mental picture of an Almighty Being. I termed it as Absolute Unitary Qualia because of its unifying nature, that puts forward a sensation of oneness between human and the God or the Universe.

Here is a common expression of experiencing the Absolute Unitary Qualia or the God state:

“The experience took hold of me with such power that it seemed to go through my whole soul, so it seemed as if God was praying in, with, and for me.”

Now in order to understand the underlying biology of the Kingdom of God, let’s start with a basic understanding of the anatomy of the soul.

Until the advancement in the field of Neuroscience, there have been a lot of mystical confusions surrounding the ancient notions of mind, body, and soul, in both the philosophical and scientific societies. Unfortunately, the confusion still prevails to a great extent in the general population. And to clear this air of mystery, a lot of scientific literatures have been published. So, I’ll not go into the detail analysis of these ideas.

All these confusions are based on ignorance. However, far from the confusions, let’s have a basic scientific perception on the idea of mind, body and soul. For ages, due to lack of insight into the biological basis of life, the ancient notion of soul being the driving force behind mind and body, has remained dominant in the general human psyche.

There has always been an irresistible desire in humans to see ourselves somehow above nature and our biological body. And this primordially innate desire has given rise to varied doctrines and philosophies of dualism, which inadvertently implied a mystical distinction between our biological body and the supernatural realm. Thus, the mystical idea of a soul has survived through ages.

The primitive human notion about the soul has been that, the soul bestows a person with his or her unique personality. This is more or less the universal perception of the soul. And if that so, then soul and mind are basically one and the same thing, because the modern understanding of the human psychology reveals that the mind is the collective expression of various mental elements such as emotions, ambitions, ideologies, sentiments etc. All these mental elements define a person’s personality traits. Therefore, soul is only the primordial equivalent of the mind.

Having diminished the confusing primeval separation between mind and soul, let’s move on and get acquainted with the fundamental building blocks of the mind/soul.

It all begins in the tiny cells of the brain which we call neurons. Neurons are the fundamental building blocks of the mind/soul. Bring a bunch of live neurons together and from them would rise a rudimentary mental feature. Bring enough of such different features together, by interconnecting their individual networks of neurons and collectively they’ll form the mind/soul.

Now imagine a hundred billion of such neurons creating a magnificent network, which gives rise to your lavishly colored mental life. Neuron is to mind, what DNA is to life. Now, let’s look at the connection between mind and life. While being an essential part of life, mind is what enables life to maneuver in this world. And consciousness is a quintessential part of mind which makes life aware of its environment. Now, given the context of the article, one might wonder, where does God fit into all this?

There is nothing mystical about it actually. It is pretty simple – mind is a part of life – consciousness is a part of mind – God is a part of consciousness. And as mentioned earlier, the God part of the consciousness is attainable only through certain stimuli. It may seem demeaning to the vanity of some individuals, but like all elements of the mind, God and all its correlated sensations of divinity are the majestic creations of the brain.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Neural Kingdom of God.”)

Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience

Biology of Belief

Have you ever wondered, why do we believe what we believe? Why some humans are religious, some spiritual, some extremists, some agnostics and some others atheists? What is it that makes various human beings perceive different things at different moral, logical and spiritual level? What makes us so different in terms of beliefs and dis-beliefs? And why is it so hard for humans to embrace each other’s beliefs? And the ultimate question is, does our belief actually allow us to connect with the reality? Does it have any significance in the human biology?

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In this article we are about to embark on an enlightening journey of belief, biology and philosophy. And in the end we shall discover how imperative it is to sometimes acknowledge each other’s beliefs and accept people the way they are, because one’s beliefs are not merely a matter of ideology or intuitions, rather it is a rudimentary need of the human mind. And for a truly cheerful and productive human life one’s belief should be in perfect harmony with Science & Philosophy.

So, let’s begin with a simple yet quintessential question of human life – what is belief?

To quote from my book Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality 

“Belief is the brain’s natural self-maintenance mechanism.” It enables a person function properly in daily life, without worrying about the true nature of reality. Belief is exclusively a matter of personal domain. It has nothing to do with reality. And conflict occurs when a person tries to impose his or her beliefs onto others.

The human brain is quite selfish. Its first concern is the satisfaction of its owner. The common human brain of the masses doesn’t care about the truth of the universe. It doesn’t care about scientific enlightenment. It doesn’t care about reasoning. The only thing it cares about is survival. And in order to survive it does everything in its capacity to keep a person bound inside a tiny circle of beliefs and fantasies. And every time another person tries to break that circle by refuting the beliefs and talking about Science, the brain kicks into self defense mode. Now it shall do everything to sustain the beliefs and fight every incoming argument with a blind eye. This is because one’s beliefs no matter how magical or mystical or unscientific they sound, help the person get through the daily struggles of life.

In short, belief is a common element of human life the purpose of which is self-preservation. Even we scientists often pursue a hunch based on our beliefs. The only difference is that we cannot call that hunch Science, until we actually prove it through rigorous experimentation. There was a time, when Evolution was a hunch or rather a hypothesis in the minds of a few naturalists. Hence we received the famous book of biology “On the Origin of Species by means of natural selection” by Charles Darwin. Then we started to look for more evidence to back up the theory. And over time we gathered a pile of anthropological and genetic evidence, enough to include the Theory of Evolution as an incontrovertible fact of science.

Now let’s talk about supernatural beliefs. The whole world is filled with various unearthly and supernatural beliefs, such as demons, advanced ancient civilization, extraterrestrial intervention in ancient human society etc. All these fantasies are the products of the brain’s myth-making mechanism. And in fact, it is very easy for the brain to fall prey to these fantastic illusory ideas and conspiracy theories. This is because your brain has an innate attraction towards everything that by definition belongs to a domain, that is apparently “beyond human understanding”. Your brain has an affinity towards all those conspiracy theories and paranormal fantasies. And there is an evolutionary reason behind it. It is because we the humans have remained in the fear of the unknown throughout the most of our 200,000 years long existence. And that innate bond between the human mind and the unknown still exists in the limbic system of the brain.

Now let’s look at some modern life scenarios where this ingrained affinity towards mysticism and the unknown becomes a curse for the society. The innate primordial attraction towards the unknown often makes people fall prey to fraudsters like psychics. However, if we talk about psychic abilities, even you have such abilities. How many times has it happened that you think of a word and suddenly the person in front spits out the very word. These are random incidents that occur in everybody daily life. It cannot be controlled or simulated. It is something that happens when you least expect it.

All these bizarre phenomena fall into the category of Extra Sensory Perception or ESP. Parapsychologists have been studying these phenomena for a long time. And the evidence is too significant to call these phenomena as coincidence. ESP does indeed occur. So far we have developed several possible scientific hypothesis for ESP. The most plausible one is that human brains are capable of sharing information through Earth’s geomagnetic field.

But you must remember, despite the fact that we have highly plausible scientific explanations for ESP, it is still all hypothesis. We haven’t yet been able to prove it as a fact of Science. Because to prove a phenomenon as Science we must replicate it inside the lab.

And there’s the biggest problem with understanding the Science behind ESP. Until now we have no way to replicate an ESP phenomenon. Because they happen naturally in the human mind, and mostly in incidents of crisis. And we cannot take the unscientific risk of triggering an ESP phenomenon in the human mind by putting another human person into a crisis. Such phenomena are unpredictable. And in most cases they occur out of the blue. So it is close to impossible to trigger such phenomena in a controlled environment.

So don’t fall prey to all the fraudsters around you claiming to be psychics. In most cases they use what we call in psychology “Barnum statements”. Astrology, tarot card reading, and all those hocus focus stuff around you, use these statements. The special feature of these statements is that they happen to be true for almost any human being. And especially when a person goes to a psychic expecting answers to various confusing questions, his or brain automatically embraces the common statements from the psychic as exclusive remarks about the person. Your brain always keeps anticipating a pattern even in the chaos. So unless you have a truly rational mind filled with scientific curiosity it is very likely for you to become a prey to those predators who are always looking to feed on the sufferings of good and gullible people.

However, if a grieving person visits a psychic with the hope of getting in touch with the departed soul of his or her loved one, in order to have solace, then I really don’t have any idea how to convince the person that the so called psychics are frauds. Because to the grieving person, the psychic acts as a ray of hope – the last resort to say good bye to a person whom he or she cared about deeply. But for this very purpose we have the field of psychiatry. We have developed highly advanced anti depressants, mood stabilizers various other medications that can help in easing the grief. Now it is up to a person’s own conscience, which one to choose.

As far as the human mind is concerned, when it is in distress, all it cares about is finding hope. And it doesn’t matter to the mind where that hope comes from. It is all about self preservation. That’s why your brain is always trying to make sense out of nonsense in order to give you a sense of calmness. It is always looking for pattern in the unknown. In fact, it quite successfully makes you see things even in the nothingness. This psychological phenomenon is known as Pareidolia. It is why your mind often perceives a figure in the cloud, or a face on a random rock formation. It is your mind that always plays tricks on you. And in every situation of your daily life you see what you really want to see, rather than what really is.

Believe it or not, none of us is able to see the reality as it is. Your brain has a very limited field of vision, when it comes to conscious perception. Everything outside that field is cut out as background noise, so that you can focus on the task at hand. No matter how much we pride ourselves to be the smartest species on earth, the reality is we are partially blind, and shall remain that way forever. And this partial cognitive blindness often leads to superstitions, especially in times of weakness. When the mind is weak, it is easy to succumb to all kinds of fantasies and superstitions. But when such fantasies and superstitions become barriers in the path of humanity’s progress, then it is imperative that we the modern human beings do our best to shake them off.

Every human being is neurologically predisposed to be superstitious. However, to counteract such superstitions the brain has also developed the feature of reasoning in the neural network of the frontal lobes. But in times of distress, that feature gets highly suppressed by the overwhelming feeling of sadness and anxiety. Hence, lack of reasoning leads the mind to seek absolution in the supernatural domain of the society.

However, those who practice reasoning and rational thinking in daily circumstances, are much more likely to avoid the hocus focus stuff in times of distress, than those who don’t. It is all about realization of the self.

The point is, human mind cannot function properly without some kind of belief system. So, for the sake a truly cheerful future we must work together to align our beliefs in the line of Science and Philosophy, as much as possible if we truly want to advance as a species, keeping in mind, that it is not possible for a human to be completely free from beliefs, because beliefs are crucial cognitive mechanism of the brain. However, one’s personal beliefs should not stop him or her from embracing the practicality of Science and the fragrance of Philosophy. There should be a healthy balance between the personal domain of beliefs and the rational realm of scientific & philosophical thinking.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Belief and Reality”)

Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2015, Neurosutra: The Abhijit Naskar Collection
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality

Does God Exist?

Mankind (not womankind) has slaughtered more humans in the name of God and Religion than for any other reason. Every time, their beliefs are offended, they lash out as pathological psychopaths. And that’s exactly what the so-called holy warriors are. But does this so-called holy war really occur due to some kind of divine intervention? Is it the will of what humanity so glorious reveres as God? If so, then what does such ruthless instruction tell us about the nature of that God? What if those instructions are not actually from God?

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All religions, one way or another talk about Lord Almighty being merciful and compassionate. But before you jump into any conclusion about whether my argument is leading towards a religious climax or an atheistic one, I must clarify that I am neither a believer nor an atheist. In all my works till now, I have made evidence based efforts to build a bridge between the ever separated banks of Science and Religion. So, if you must, you can call me an Agnostic. I am not an atheist. But the religion that I do advocate is not of the Bible, Vedas, Quran or any other scripture. The religion I speak of, is what Christ talked about, it is what Buddha talked about, it is the religion of plain everyday kindness. A Muslim who prays five times a day and yet beats his wife at home, is no religious person. A Christian who goes to Church every Sunday, and yet never talks to his or her neighbor with a smile on the face, is no religious person. On the other hand, an outspoken atheist who most lovingly talks and listens to people of all religions without any bigotry or prejudice is a hundred times more religious than all the theoretical preachers of all religions combined.

Now let’s get back to the matter in hand. All scriptures, have elements that advocate compassion, generosity and peace. However, they also possess elements of violence and monstrosity. That’s an unfortunate and unavoidable fact of most of the religious scriptures, especially Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. Now the question is, if God is merciful then how can it be so ruthless at times?

Despite the complexity of the question, the answer is quite simple. Here we must take not one but two Gods into consideration. One of them is the God of Humanity, which all humans proudly venerate, experience and often perceive as an Omnipresent, either abstract or humanlike Entity. Human mind in general perceives this God as the driving force behind everything in the universe. This God is perceived as the controller of causality in the universe.
The other God is the actual controller of causality, if there is any such Entity. Humanity only thinks that it knows, feels and experiences this Actual Supreme Entity, while in reality, the God of humanity is a fascinating part of the human consciousness. This God is what I have clinically termed as Absolute Unitary Qualia in my book What is Mind?. In most cases, without even knowing, humanity actually worships not an Entity, rather a mental state. This is the state what all the religious founders experienced. And those who actually experience this mental state of Absolute Unitary Qualia, become radically transformed as humans. Their brain circuits get rewired as if some Supreme Divinity Entity has touched their soul. And that’s exactly what they feel. That feeling has nothing to do with Reality, rather it is all about the exclusively private subjective experience of the individual.

I am not going to talk about the other God, that is the actual driver of causality, for we know nothing of it. The only Science that can answer whether there is an Entity controlling causality is Modern Physics. We Biologists are not the right people to investigate that domain. Our purpose is to investigate Life. And as Neuroscientists, our purpose is to investigate the God of Human Life, i.e. Absolute Unitary Qualia. The God that is venerated in different cultures in different ways, is actually an inexplicable state of the human mind. In fact, it is the Event horizon of Human Consciousness. It is not entity, but the person experiencing it may experience it as an entity, because AUQ manifests in different individuals in different ways. The storyline of that manifestation is constructed by the mind, based on one’s urges, intuitions and conjectures. And the end product of such complicated mental process is a true personal transcendental meeting with God or the Universe, within one’s inner cosmos. Such an experience transforms a person radically. It makes him or her, in most cases, the best version of himself or herself. In AUQ a person’s true personality gets amplified to an unimaginable extent. So, a compassionate person becomes even more compassionate, while a narcissistic misogynist becomes the specimen of extreme primeval human urges.

However, you must remember that there is no such thing as a God Spot or God Module in the brain. Just like Consciousness is the product of collective activity of various regions of the brain, the God part of the Consciousness, which is the most blissful and inexplicable of all conscious states of the human mind, is also a product of complex electrical activity in various neural regions. It also involves inactivation of a few parts of the brain. In various cases, during Absolute Unitary Qualia or simply during God experience, the frontal lobes, parts of the limbic system and to some extent the temporal lobes become highly active. This complex neural functioning of the brain leads to an amazing sensation of supreme divinity and euphoria. Along comes the loss of sense of the self, which occurs due to the inactivation of the parietal lobes, which are principle brain region for navigation of the self in three dimensional space.

This whole collective mental process leads to the glorious experience of Absolute Divinity. It is the ultimate form of bliss. Once you attain that bliss through prayer or meditation, the ordinary everyday happiness and sorrow seem pointless. And that’s the beauty of such God experience. And this magnificent experience of transcendental bliss is the God of the Human Species. All religious founders attained this very God. And due to their unique neural circuitries each of them experienced it in vividly different ways. Their human minds constructed the experience of their desired divinity that heralded the advent of modern religions. Thus at the fountain-head of all religions there were the complicated neural processes of Absolute Divinity. And today, that Absolute Divinity is venerated throughout the world as the God/Yahweh/Allah/Brahman and so on.
Now the biggest question of all is, how can this experience of Absolute Divinity lead to violence? And is it actually true that religion causes violence?

Religion doesn’t cause violence, but the negative elements of the religious books do. While experiencing Absolute Unitary Qualia, a person’s own urges, beliefs, intuitions and imaginations bubble to the surface of Consciousness and manifest themselves as the storyline of the intense spiritual experience. Thus, all the messages recorded in the scriptures were constructed by the human mind in the transcendental state. The thing which we call “revelations” of the religious books, were merely an amplification of the human mind’s inner desires, instincts and fantasies.

Hence, almost all the scriptures in the world contain teachings that are philosophically beneficial to the humanity, alongside some primitive instructions that are downright harmful to the entire species. A healthy human mind is neurologically incapable of carrying out the ruthless instructions of the negative elements of the scriptures. The only way the negative elements of the scriptures can harm the society, is through blind followers of the books. These are whom we, not at all proudly, call fundamentalists. These fundamentalists are the real cause of all the violence in the name of religion. They drive angry young men in the path of vengeance and presents the ideology of Jihad to them in such a way that it appears to them as the last resort for absolution. Their rage against the society, for whatever reason, turns into the tool of religious terrorism in the hands of the fundamentalists.

Religious faith as a whole induces various health benefits in the general population through complex biological processes, while on the other hand, Fundamentalism not only acts the biggest threat to humanity, but also, it consistently tends to drag the entire planet back to the Stone Age.

We the Neuroscientists have already proven through rigorous experiments and studies that Religion is Healthy for the Human society, both physiologically and psychologically. But we must act now to get rid of fundamentalism from the society once and forever. Because, if we don’t, the monstrosity of the fundamentalists will soon turn this beautiful planet which we call home, into a barren wasteland.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “What is God?”)
Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience